Lessons From Books: The Obstacle Is The Way

In the book, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ryan Holiday takes lessons from some of the most notable men and women throughout human history on how they overcame their specific obstacles and compiles them in one place. As the book title suggests, the book is about overcoming obstacles and Holiday believes we overcome obstacles through three critical steps: Perception, Action and The Will.

One thing that is stressed throughout the book is not to walk blindly through life. If you do, then you’ll be constantly thrown about. Instead, what you need are principles and frameworks that are specific to you so this can include working on a positive mindset, self-affirmations, set of reminders, principles to live your life by, being cool-headed and having self disciple like Rockefeller, building the habit of taking action and practicing to overcome your weak spots like Demosthenes, humility, endurance and compassionate of Lincoln, and so on.

By doing so, he shows what we require is a

Method and a framework for understanding, appreciating, and acting upon the obstacles life throws at us.

The following are lessons to help build that framework.

Lessons:

On Perception

Perception plays a key role in overcoming obstacles. Our perception can aid an obstacle in becoming an obstacle. Also, “through our perception of events, we are complicit in the creation—as well as the destruction—of every one of our obstacles.”

There is bad perception and good perception. Bad perception comes from being emotional, subjective, and shortsighted. If you cannot perceive the obstacle in the correct manner, then overcoming them becomes difficult because your aim/method will be wrong. It’s not about the obstacle, it’s about our reaction and attitude towards it. A failure to one individual can be critical, but the same failure to another can propel them onwards because they perceived the failure correctly and didn’t add to it with their own emotions or attitudes. 

A good person dyes events with his own color…and turns whatever happens to his own benefit – Seneca

You can’t see the opportunity if you can’t control your emotions and are subjective and impulsive. Every situation is an opportunity to prove your worth, to better yourself, to practice virtue or discipline, but the right perception is required.

Desperation, despair, fear, powerlessness—these reactions are functions of our perceptions. You must realize: Nothing makes us feel this way; we choose to give in to such feelings.

Fear and panic are two emotions that breathe life into bad perception. If your decisions are rooted in fear or caused by panic, then you are most likely creating further obstacles.

The perceiving eye is weak; the observing eye is strong – Miyamoto Musashi

Practice objectivity when you can. Acknowledging an event happened is objective, believing that event was bad, is subjective. Besides, your problem isn’t unique. People have tackled the same problems for centuries, find examples of how people overcame your situation.

That we are scared of obstacles because our perspective is wrong—-that a simple shift in perspective can change our reaction entirely.

Have A Clear Vision

Work ethic combined with vision gets things done. Vision provides the aim, the target, and the work ethic provides the movement towards that target. Some people have poor vision because they believe in the obstacle more than in the goal. You are conceding to the obstacle before you even attempt to overcome it. We can relate vision to the importance of belief. You have to believe that you can overcome whatever obstacle is in front of you and achieve your goal. Once that is settled, then you can create a plan of action that achieves your goal.

Take Action

The right and effective actions are made up of deliberation, boldness, and persistence. The action is performed in the service of the whole. The whole is the goal. So, the small steps, movements, efforts, habits, what may seem like insignificant choice of discipline, all add up to the completion of the whole. It all moves you towards your goal.

A part of overcoming obstacles is ownership.

No excuses. No exceptions. No way around it.

No one is going to get rid of the obstacles for you. You have to do it yourself. This may require self-reflection and change of habits and mindset and/or making new habits, developing new skills, getting out of your comfort zone. Whatever it may be, the primary requirement is yourself and the actions or the inactions you commit. Make it happen; create the change. 

The start doesn’t matter. What matters is the momentum. So say yes and ask yourself: Could you be doing more?

On Persistence

Genius often really is just persistence in disguise.

Persistence is defined as a firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. Life is hard. Achieving your goals is difficult. There are and will be many obstacles in your way. These are facts that you have to accept. Your first steps will not work. Accept that reality. Accept the reality that many failures await you. Persist towards your goals anyway.

Working at it works. It’s that simple.

A way to persist is by living in the moment and controlling what you can influence right at this moment, which are your actions. Don’t be overly concerned about the end goal. There is a lot of room between the start and the finish. If you’re constantly thinking about the finish, it’s easy to get discouraged when that line seems like it hasn’t moved. Instead, in order to persist, focus on the small multitude of steps you have to cover before you can get to that finish. Do the right thing, right now, in the present moment. Don’t worry about the rest. Just one clean movement after the other.

Excellence is a matter of steps.

Concentrate on making the tough choices, the hard decisions, ones that will bring long-term benefits, ones that sacrifice short-term pleasure.

The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up – Chuck Palahniuk

Have Pride

It is cliche to say that you should try to do whatever job it is the best you can, but that really matters. Putting your best effort into what you’re doing, no matter how trivial, reinforces positive habits and mindset.

You are the sum of your actions.

These are the steps that will matter when you get a different opportunity. If you get into the bad habit of half-assed effort, then when you start your “dream” job, that habit will poison it.

But you, you’re so busy thinking about the future, you don’t take any pride in the tasks you’re given right now. You just phone it all in, cash your paycheck, and dream of some higher station in life. Or you think, This is just a job, it isn’t who I am, it doesn’t matter.

Foolishness.

Be Pragmatic

We spend a lot of time thinking about how things are supposed to be, or what the rules say we should do. Trying to get it all perfect. We tell ourselves that we’ll get started once the conditions are right, or once we’re sure we can trust this or that. When, really, it’d be better to focus on making due with what we’ve got. On focusing on results instead of pretty methods.

A form of self-sabotage is this need to have perfect conditions. Instead, you have to find the way despite your conditions.

Think progress, not perfection. 

Find the best approach to get the desired results. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t the “right” way. The way is the one that produces results.

Have a strategic approach to your goals. Don’t just have a goal out in the future, instead, break it down into smaller and smaller steps. Steps that you can put into action and will help you make progress.

The process is about finishing. Finishing games. Finishing workouts. Finishing film sessions. Finishing drives. Finishing reps. Finishing plays. Finishing blocks. Finishing the smallest task you have right in front of you and finishing it well.

The root cause of our dissatisfaction and failure to achieve our goals is our attitude and approach. Don’t have this fixed mindset where if you fail once you just assume that you’re not good at it or this goal isn’t meant for you. Instead, assess your performance and failure and approach again with a slight tweak. View your approach as a hypothesis. If the hypothesis fails, you have to make adjustments to it and run the tests again.

On Will Power

Will power means to have the endurance for the long haul. Your will is under your control and you can apply it when the going gets tough, which it eventually will because life has many difficulties. You will fail many times at attempting your goal but to keep on trying, that’s what it means to have endurance. 

One way to strengthen your willpower is through physical exercise. To put your body through tough regimens that will cause you to question whether or not you want to do it again. Every time you can overcome such thoughts and feelings, it will strengthen your resolve. 

We craft our spiritual strength through physical exercise, and our physical hardness through mental practice […] Many (Ancient Philosophers) saw themselves as mental athletes—after all, the brain is a muscle like any other active tissue. It can be built up and toned through the right exercises. Over time, their muscle memory grew to the point that they could intuitively respond to every situation. Especially obstacles.

Perseverance is another aspect of willpower.

Persistence is an action. Perseverance is a matter of will. One is energy. The other, endurance.

Staying power. It is by sticking your ass to the seat and not leaving until the work is done. It is the quality you need, along with discipline, to make progress in life. The ability to grind.

There are far more failures in the world because of a collapse of will than there will ever be from objectively conclusive external events.

Perspective Towards Life

Life is a process of breaking through these impediments—a series of fortified lines that we must break through.

Each time, you’ll learn something. Each time, you’ll develop strength, wisdom, and perspective. Each time, a little more of the competition falls away. Until all that is left is you: the best version of you.

Concentrate on making progress and not trying to hit the home run with each swing. The big swings and misses cause discouragement. Instead, live a purposeful life that consists of several small steps in the service of the whole.

Great Quotes:

What such a man needs is not courage but nerve control, cool-headedness. This he can get only by practice – Theodore Roosevelt

With the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You must never lower yourself to being a person you don’t like – Henry Rollins

Death makes life purposeful.

Behind mountains are more mountains – Haitian proverb

Cheerfulness in all situations, especially the bad ones.

To be great at something takes practice. Obstacles and adversity are no different.

Action, Action, Action! – Demosthenes

My formula for greatness in human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it…but love it – Nietzsche

Lessons from Books: The Magic Of Thinking Big

The Magic of Thinking Big by Dr. David J. Schwartz tackles many fundamental qualities needed to excel in life. Qualities such as belief systems, positive thinking, discipline, taking action, overcoming fear, making relationships, setting goals, creating value systems, and much more are not only defined in a way to show their significance, but Dr. Schwartz also gives practical guidelines and practices to follow which will embolden these qualities in the reader.

The following are some of the main takeaways from the book.

Lessons:

The Importance of Belief

Belief works this way. Belief, the “I’m positive-I-can” attitude, generates the power, skill, and energy needed to do. When you believe I-can-do-it, the how-to-do-it develops.

Belief is the initial step to taking action and is often the step many people lack because they cannot see themselves achieving their goal. If you lack the belief then you will never try to figure out how you can accomplish your goal. However, once you believe you can accomplish ‘X’, then you can ask:

How will you make this belief come true?

When you answer this question, you may realize that you are lacking in certain skill sets, or understandings, or developments, or relationships that you will need in order to turn your belief into reality. This is a good thing. It means there is a path towards achieving your goal. So, what was once just hopeful wishing can become a reality through your actions.

But if you lacked the belief in the first place, then you would not have been able to formulate a plan of action. You would not have objectively seen what is required to get to your goal.

Belief releases creative powers. Disbelief puts the brakes on.

Similar to the chain reaction that occurs when you believe, disbelieving also leads you to a path. But unlike the path believing creates, disbelieving shows you a path away from what you hope to achieve by giving you excuses and reasons not to work for your potential future.

By disbelieving, you narrow your worldview, and with it, you narrow your potential. The easiest thing in the world is to find reasons not to work and sacrifice your present comfort.

Thinking does make it so. The fellow who thinks he is inferior, regardless of what his real qualifications may be, is inferior. For thinking regulates actions. If a man feels inferior, he acts that way, and no veneer of cover-up or bluff will hide for long this basic feeling. The person who feels he isn’t important, isn’t. On the other side, a fellow who really things he is equal to the task, is.

How To Overcome Fear

The old “it’s-only-in-your-mind treatment” presumes fear doesn’t really exist. But it does. Fear is real. Fear is success enemy No. 1. Fear stops people from capitalizing on opportunity; fear wears down physical vitality; fear actually makes people sick, causes organic difficulties, shortens life; fear closes your mouth when you want to speak.

You can find reasons to avoid your fears. One way to do that is by thinking it’s all in your head. This type of thinking avoids fear because you never confront it. What you need to do is take what causes you fear and give it life. Take it from the abstract and write it down on a piece of paper. This way you know exactly what is causing you to fear and once you know that you can make an actionable plan to overcome it. 

An exercise such as Fear Setting can help you practice how to confront and overcome fear.

Two interconnected ways to overcome fear are confidence and action. Often your fears arise from a feeling of inadequacy. Thinking that you aren’t up to the task or don’t have the ability to achieve your goal. This goes hand in hand with action because typically, the lack of action creates self-confidence issues which results in second guessing your capabilities and giving power to your fears.

All confidence is acquired, developed.

Action is vital to living a good life. Through action, you can build confidence because as you achieve things, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, the achievement creates positive momentum which can lead you to overcome bigger fears. It can work the other way around too. You can almost delude yourself into believing that you can overcome fear and then create a plan that does so. When you act, then what seems like this big scary monster comes undone and you can pick it apart slowly. 

Action cures fear.

Ask yourself: “What kind of action can I take to conquer my fears?”

By asking this question, you can then isolate your fear and make it easier to build a plan around it. 

Growth Through Self Reflection

Practice adding value to yourself. Conduct a daily interview with yourself. Ask, “What can I do to make myself more valuable today?” Visualize yourself not as you are but as you can be. Then specific ways for attaining your potential value all suggest themselves.

This is where keeping a personal journal can be helpful. You can use the journal as a daily interview, almost as if it is the journal pages ask you questions such as:

How can you improve from yesterday? What did you do yesterday (or the past week/month) that you disliked? What is one habit you want to change? What is one habit you want to implement? How can you make progress in your work? How can you improve your relationships? What is one dietary change you want to make? What are your workout goals? What can I do to make myself more deserving of the next opportunity? And so on.

In reality, answering any one of these questions one time won’t result in a grand change. But the process is important. Repeatedly thinking about these questions and answering them. Most of the time you require hundreds of repeatable actions before you see change. So, consistently answering self-reflective questions will slowly change your trajectory towards the potential individual you wish to be. 

Journals can also help with self-criticism. However, there is a proper method to being self critical. You don’t want to be overly negative and belittling towards yourself. That will damage your confidence and momentum, but at the same time you want to hold yourself accountable.

Don’t, of course, try to find your faults so you can say to yourself, “here’s another reason I’m a loser.” Instead view your mistakes as “Here’s another way to make me a bigger winner.

Practice positivity even when you are dissecting your mistakes and actions. After all, any improvement you make will move you towards a better version of yourself so the outcome is positive, hence, the view should be positive as well. 

Comparison can also be a good way to reflect and be critical. Once again, you don’t want to compare yourself to others in a way that damages your psyche. But if you pick four or five individuals who are successful in parts of life where you’d like to be successful as well, and this doesn’t have to be work, it can be health, relationships, hobbies, you can then compare your attitude, beliefs, habits, actions, mindsets to these individuals and see how you differ and what changes you can bring about that will align you more towards these individuals. 

Take Care of Your Mental Diet

The body is what the body is fed. By the same token, the mind is what the mind is fed. Mind food, of course, doesn’t come in packages and you can’t buy it at the store. Mind food is your environment—all the countless things which influence your consciousness and subconscious thought. The kind of mind food we consume determines our habits, attitudes, personality. Each of us inherited a certain capacity to develop. But how much of that capacity we have developed and the way we have developed that capacity depends on the kind of mind food you feed it.

In order to be physically healthy, you need a well-balanced diet. Keep your fats, carbs, and sugar in check. Make sure you’re getting plenty of protein and vegetables. Exercise regularly. Fasting has important benefits to the body and as do well-timed cheat meals.

The same principles apply to your mental diet. Make sure you’re not consuming too much junk, such as mindless forms of entertainment or web browsing. Have a well-balanced mental diet which can include fiction and non-fiction books, documentaries, varied forms of news intake, and even taking classes on subjects you find interesting. Similar to how you would lower your sugar intake to a specific level, you can lower your social media consumption to perhaps two ten-minute breaks a day. View fasting breaks as disconnecting from the internet or television. But don’t forget to give yourself a break and cheat by watching your favorites shows or reality television in a structured manner. 

Effort Before The Reward

You don’t get a raise on the promise of better performance; you get a raise only by demonstrating better performance. You can’t harvest money unless you plant the seeds that grow money. And the seed of money is service. Put service first and more takes care of itself.

Your work comes with a degree of faith. Faith that someday your efforts will produce the fruits that you desire. But you cannot expect the fruits of your labour before you put in the effort. In today’s climate, where it seems as if people can become rich and successful overnight, especially because of social media, you can get this false sense of obligation. As if you are obligated to the reward right away. That if you put in a few hours, you should see an uptick in your bank account or likes and follows. But that mindset is not correct because it puts the rewards before the effort. Work for the sake of the work.

Reminder: The work is the dream.

Always give people more than they expect to get.

Be About The Action

Being active is a mindset that can be built, and for there, the habit of acting comes. When you create a resolution to be active, your mind gets ignited to think of ways to accomplish goals and to take action. 

A lot of times your inactivity stems from fear. You are afraid to fail, get embarrassed, be disappointed so you choose the option that will avoid that potential outcome, which is inactivity. However, passivity only avoids short-term suffering but compounds long term suffering as you come to live with regret and think about the “what ifs” all your life. And evidently, the thing that can cure your fear is the very thing you are avoiding: Action.

Use action to cure fear and gain confidence. Here’s something to remember. Action feeds and strengthens confidence; inaction in all forms feeds fear. To fight fear, act. to increase fear—wait, put off, postpone.

Verbalizing and/or writing the worst-case outcome can help you make better decisions. Write what’s the worse thing that can happen if you choose to act, and if you do not act. Often when you write it down and accept the worst case, you realize it was more frightening in your mind. And that in reality, you can handle that potential outcome or at the very least you can prepare yourself to dull the impact of it.

Another way to make sure that you are focusing on acting is by creating routines and habits that lead towards action. You can rely too much on your mood or feelings. Everyone has said at least once in their life “I don’t feel like it,” or “when I’m in the right mood I’ll do it”. Having to rely on something that can change at the whim of the moment isn’t exactly the smartest thing. Instead, have to remind yourself that you’re ready to go right now, that you can work now. 

Action must precede action. That’s is a law of nature.

Routines that lead you towards your primary task are actions that will create actions. Think of them as warm-ups or stretches before your principal work. Let’s say you want to be more active in the morning, then a simple action that can lead to more productivity is having your alarm clock away from your bed so that you have to physically get up to turn it off. This makes it easier to start your day because you are already up, rather than lying around in bed for twenty-thirty minutes after your alarm has gone off and now you have to rush through the morning. So the routine changes from hitting the snooze button to throwing your blanket off and leaving your bed right away.

Importance of Having Goals

Goals are as essential to success as air is to life. No one ever stumbles into success without a goal. No one ever lives without air. Get a clear fix on where you want to go.

View yourself as a business. Every corporation has things like a ten-year plan. What is yours? Not just for future goals but the future you. What characteristics, habits, routines do you see your future self having?

The person determined to achieve maximum success learns the principle that progresses made one step at a time. A house is built a brick at a time. Football games are won a play at a time. A department store grows bigger one new customer at a time. Every big accomplishment is a series of little accomplishments.

This is why it’s important for you to figure out your personal, career, and health goals. Once you have the end goal or at least a future mark, you can then work on the little steps you need to take in order to get there. 

Do this: Start marching toward your ultimate goal by making the next task you perform, regardless of how unimportant it may seem, a step in the right direction. Commit this question to memory and use it to evaluate everything you do. “Will this help take me where I want to go? If the answer is no, back off; if yes, press ahead.

Great Quotes:

You must feel important to succeed.

Practice uplifting self-praise. Don’t practice belting self-punishment.

The success combination is do what you do better (improve the quality of your output) and do more of what you do (increase the quantity of your output).

But you can wager every cent you have the bricklayer who visualized himself as building a great cathedral did not remain a bricklayer.

Success depends on the support of other people.

We can try and try, and try and try and try again, and still fail unless we combine persistence with experimentation.

Lessons From Books: Walden

Henry David Thoreau famously encapsulated two years of his life in a book called Walden. The name derives from Walden Pond near which Thoreau lived in a cabin for those two years as he practiced his minimalist philosophy. And as one would assume, the book focuses on Thoreau’s observations on his philosophy, and additionally, the importance of nature, and the uniqueness of the present moment and everyday life. But there is also a significant attempt by Thoreau to not only find his individuality but to embolden it, strengthen it, and become an individual. It is this notion of individuality that is the focus of this post.

Lessons:

Importance Of Self Reflection

I should not talk so much about myself if there was anybody else whom I knew as well.

In Walden, Thoreau is constantly dissecting his beliefs and ideas, exploring his likes and interest, and most importantly, questioning himself. The reason for this is that you will never know anyone as well as you’ll know yourself. Thoreau understood this idea and wished to understand himself completely, hence why he ventured into the woods and live alone with his thoughts.

We can question other people’s motives and beliefs, discuss their actions, and speculate on their behaviours but mostly the conversation hovers on the surface because we haven’t experienced what the other person has, we don’t know the thoughts they were having when they acted; we don’t know the thoughts they have when they’re alone; we don’t know what their beliefs systems are. But you can know these things about yourself.

Self-reflection should be a vital part of your day-to-day. Journaling is one way to explore yourself. Question yourself. Write down your thoughts and see what you’re really thinking. Do the same with your opinions and beliefs and study them. Where did they come from? Who influenced them? Why do you believe in the thing that you do? What caused you to act in a manner that results in shame and guilt afterward? Why do certain things make you angry? What makes you happy? What gives you the feeling of fulfillment? Why aren’t you doing more of that? What’s precious about life? How can I make each day more vivid?

Thoreau kept a journal with him the entire time he was at Walden. The journal is full of his daily observation of himself and of his environment and life. This journal was a tool to build his own character, to find his individuality, to reinforce who he wanted to be.

You would do a disservice to yourself if you are not dissecting and exploring your own being because there is only person you can ever come close to knowing fully, and that is yourself.

Solitude is another way to achieve this goal.

I had withdrawn so far within the great ocean of solitude, into which rivers of society empty, that for the most part, so far as my needs were concerned, only the finest sediment was deposited around me. Beside, there were wafted to me a evidence of unexplored and uncultivated continents on the other side.

We constantly distract ourselves with societal needs and influences. Especially in our current age where from the morning alarm bell to the time you go to bed, there is this need to go online and scroll through social media, surf the web anytime you find yourself alone, or have some free time. You can turn these moments into an exploration of your own needs and exert your own influence. Sit alone with your thoughts, be mindful of what is happening inside your heads, reflect upon your past actions and future intentions. Have solitude from the outside world.

Cultivate solitude so you can cultivate yourself. My belief is that the better you understand yourself, the better you understand your fellow man because we are all the same. So through solitude, you gain universal understanding and become closer with other people, and not just yourself.  

Influence Your Thoughts, Don’t Let Your Thoughts Influence You

What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates his fate.

The stories we tell ourselves can either put limitations on us or liberate us. If we are constantly talking down to ourselves, pointing out the things that we cannot do or aren’t good at, it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy where we act out in ways that will eventually lead to failure. Then we look at them as examples to affirm our negative thought process. If you don’t monitor your thoughts and allow all the negative ones to roam free, then they can cause you to self-sabotage.

Be careful what thoughts you repeat and reinforce. One way to apply your own influence is through self-affirmation practice. The famous writer, Scott Adams, would write the following sentence upwards of fifteen times a day: “I Scott Adams will become a syndicated cartoonist.” This positive affirmation would then have a trickle-down effect where Adams took actions to affirm this sentence. Affirmations can work for your career goals, as Adams suggests, but they can also work on your character traits and behaviours.

Another way to influence your thoughts is through mindfulness or detachment, where you view your thoughts from a third-person perspective and discard the ones that you wouldn’t want your friends or family members to have. 

A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts.

Find Your Own Beat

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.

Thoreau left behind society in large and spent two years alone in a cabin because that is the beat he heard. The intuition he felt he needed to follow. Many people would consider this to be a form of madness, but for Thoreau, the daily grind of life in the city was madness, so he followed his own path. In doing so, he emboldened his individualism.

There are a lot of unknowns in life, so it makes sense why people follow their companions down whatever road they are going. It is the safer decision. But by doing so, you can miss out on the opportunity to explore what makes you feel alive. What makes life feel special to you. These types of sensations are more vivid when you decide to listen to your own beat, your own needs, and follow them regardless of the direction your peers took.

Have An Imbalance Between Comfort and Discomfort

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.

Most luxuries and comforts help ease life and bring immediate pleasure. The desire for luxuries and comfort often comes from our focus on external pleasure. Our concern with appearances, reputation, and competition with others. But if you shift that focus from the external to the internal, and concentrate on what will help you grow, then luxury items take a backseat to real challenges like facing your fears. The individual grows through the discomfort, as Thoreau demonstrated by venturing away from daily comforts. It is in the struggle when we see who we are and decide whether we like that person.

Need to achieve an imbalance where there is more discomfort than comfort. Or at the very least, have pockets of time dedicated to making your life more uncomfortable. Exercising is a good way to practice this. We can view it as an hour of discomfort where you chose exercises and workouts that challenge your weaknesses and test your mind. Through these tests, we can elevate our person.

Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of necessaries, but for want of luxuries.

This imbalance of priorities and overabundance of pleasure can distract you from the real aim which is to grow as an individual.

Need an Aim in Life

In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.

Reminder to set lofty goals and high personal standards. People often aim for low goals because that comes with lesser pain when we fail. The higher the aim, the higher the disappointment, but equally, the higher the fulfillment. So, not only is it important to have aims, but have to make sure the aims are high so you give yourself an opportunity to experience life to its fullest. Even the pain of failing to achieve your aim is a blessing, for feelings are so vivid, so life-affirming to the individual.

Have Faith

That if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Lessons From Books: The War Of Art

Steven Pressfield defines Resistance as self-sabotage. Essentially, any action you take or don’t take that leads you away from your goals results from Resistance. This can vary from indulging in procrastinating, giving into thoughts like “let me just spend another five minutes on my phone” or “I feel hungry, let me grab some food first before I start my work” to more long-term consequences such as the relationships you choose to stay in or the career paths you follow. These are conscious decisions you make, hence why Pressfield associates Resistance with self-sabotage. In his book, The War of Art, he dives further into the specifics of Resistance and how to identify and overcome Resistance.

Lessons:

Resistance Dwells In The Moments Prior To Taking Action

It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

Typically, the actual act of doing something isn’t daunting. What is daunting are the moments before the action when you allow your mind to get the best of you. Your thoughts are flooded with distractions, negativity, and fear which keeps you from acting. Thoughts that want to delay actions, whether that be for just another moment or day to even months or years. If you can overcome the initial discomfort and Resistance and simply act, all those prior thoughts and feelings go away and the work takes over. Two main takeaways from this experience are that the fight against Resistance starts way before the actual action, and only through action do we overcome Resistance. 

The Consequences Of Giving In To Resistance

To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.

This may sound dramatic, but it is a realistic perspective towards your failure to control your desires. Resistance desires comfort and immediate gratification. There two things are often the polar opposite of what you need in order to grow and attain your goals. We all have an ideal version of ourselves. The one who has achieved everything we wanted and became the person we desire to be. Each time you yield to Resistance, a piece from that version loses its boldness. Each time you overcome Resistance, a piece of that version becomes emboldened, solidifying. So, attaching a sense of urgency and fate, it can cause you to think twice before acting in a manner that aligns with what Resistance desires.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution; the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

How To Use Resistance Against Itself

Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favour of long-term growth, health or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.

When you feel Resistance, then you know you are likely on the right path, about to take the right action. This way, wherever there is Resistance, there is your path. This is like the notion the Philosopher-Emperor Marcus Aurelius expressed regarding the obstacles in your life determine the path you should take.

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

Additionally, when you act and you feel no Resistance, then perhaps you are doing what Resistance wants. Reflect on your feelings prior to taking action and you will determine whether Resistance is manipulating you.

The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Fear derived from Resistance is your ally. It’s because you want something so badly that emotion like fear surfaces. The more we want something, the greater the fear of failure becomes. Resistance focuses your thoughts on failure rather than the feeling of accomplishment that is equally possible. But in order to open yourself to the highest of pleasures, you have to be open to the highest of failures. Resistance wishes to dim the pain and stay as comfortable as you can in the short term. Whether you overcome and give in to Resistance depends on the choice you make between the amount of pleasure you want.

Develop Mental Endurance

The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.

Jocko Willink has a saying that applies perfectly to battling Resistance: The count is always zero. All the work you did yesterday, all the words you wrote, all the actions you took, all the repetitions and sets you did, and so on and so forth are back to zero when the new day begins and resistance waits for you again as you attempt to do your work all over. It’s good that you overcame Resistance yesterday and did what you needed to do. But today, it’s back to zero. This also applied to the mistakes you made and if you gave into Resistance yesterday. Today it’s back to zero, and yesterday’s failure need not be amplified. So it is best to build mental and physical endurance because you are in it for the long haul.

Sharpen Your Self Control

The truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.

Resistance is such a master. It comes in many forms: social media, television consumption, radical ideas, self-loathing, web surfing, materialism. Essentially, anything that takes away your influence over yourself and places it in the hands of another person or thing. You have a responsibility to self-reflect. To see what consumes your thoughts and what drives your actions. Resistance may control you without your knowledge.

A way to strengthen self-control is through fasting. Not just dietary fasting, but also depriving and/or limiting your interactions with the external world. You can view fasting as a form of delaying gratification. You are in control of your technological diet, relationship diet, negative/pessimistic thinking diet. Whether you apply the concept to your physical health or your mental health or building healthy habits, it works the same way. The more you deny access to things that give you an immediate dose of dopamine, the more control you have over yourself.

Focus Your Efforts And Thoughts On Your Work

Grandiose fantasies are a symptom of Resistance. They’re the sign of an amateur. The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work.

Daydreaming and envisioning success have their value, but they can be a deterrent to actual action. Because of the time you should spend working, you are spending on fantasies. But also because grandiose fantasies can create fear because you might not believe you can ever achieve these dreams.

Not to mention things rarely come to fruition as you envision them.

Resistance knows that the more psychic energy we expend dredging and re-dredging the tires, boring injustices of our personal lives, the less juice we have to do our work.

So, if the results and/or success don’t match your expectations, then you might get discouraged to keep working. There will never be the perfect situation, the perfect time, perfect childhood, perfect health, or mental state to start your work. Have to learn to make the best of the imperfect present and get your work done.

While in reality, the work is the dream as the five-time NBA champion, Kobe Bryant said. 

But hopefully what you get from tonight is that those times when you get up early and you work hard; those times when you stay up late and you work hard; those times when you don’t feel like working — you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself — but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream.

Resistance is overcome by being a professional, and a professional is concerned only about his work.

Beware of Rational Thought

Rationalization is Resistance’s right-hand man. Its job is to keep us from feeling the shame we would feel if we truly faced what cowards we are for not doing our work.

The issue with rationalization is that it raises legitimate points, so it is easy to give in to it. You can always rationalize a reason not to do something. You can rationalize missing a workout by how tired you are feeling. You can rationalize a half-assed effort at work by determining how hard you worked yesterday. You can find legitimate cultural, genetic, financial reasons your dreams aren’t feasible. You can even rationalize your current mode of being to bad luck and fate.

More often than not that reason either stems from a fear of being uncomfortable because these rational choices point you towards inaction, towards staying where you are. But If you focus on the long-term goal and benefits, then the rational argument is weakened. Your physical and mental make-up changes through work. Your position in life only changes through work. Your dreams come true only through work. Your luck changes through work. Rational or irrational, you need to put the effort in. We all know what we should do and what we shouldn’t. Sometimes it is as simple as shutting that mind off, and Resistance along with it, and going to work. 

Lessons From Books: Wherever You Go, There You Are

In his book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zim defines mindfulness as the “art of conscious living”. The book dives further into the practical application of mindfulness, how to cultivate it, and the different practices and exercises. However, this specific post will concentrate on the importance of mindfulness meditation, why it is important, and how it can improve your life.

Many people drift from one moment to the next without having little control over their thoughts and impulses which dwell either in the past or in the future, moments coated with desires, needs, wants, disappointments, and failures. When you constantly dwell in those two realms, life passes by. In reality, only the present moment is alive. Focus on this moment in time and exert your influence right now so you can experience it. Mindfulness practice can be seen as a tool that helps you be fully conscious of the present moment. 

Fundamentally, mindfulness is a simple concept. Its power lies in its practice and its applications. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality. It wakes us up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments. If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and the depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation.

Instead of allowing the unconscious, automatic behaviours and habits to direct your energy or your fears and insecurities to move you, mindfulness can help you control your actions and make decisions based on reason and logic. This is achieved by using your attention.

When we commit ourselves to paying attention in an open way, without falling prey to our own likes and dislikes, opinions and prejudices, projections and expectations, new possibilities open up and we have a chance to free ourselves from the straitjacket of unconsciousness.

When you aren’t bound by past thought processes and narratives, you can then act upon present needs. 

The spirit of mindfulness is to practice for its own sake, and just to take each moment as it comes—pleasant or unpleasant, good, bad, or ugly—and then work with that because it is what is present now.

Too often meditation is confused with the state of being calm and relaxed. Mistakenly believing that if you aren’t Zen, then you can’t be meditative. Although that is one aspect of it, mindfulness can be practiced at any moment, regardless of the emotional state you are in because human beings experience a wide variety of emotions and feelings and it is in the acknowledgment of these different states where mindfulness dwells and not in channeling yourself towards only one or two states of emotions or feelings.

Another misconception about meditation is that you are trying to dull the experience of life. That you are aiming to become unemotional so that the events of life don’t disturb you. There is that stereotype of a monk disconnected from society, living minimally, who sits with his feet crossed and meditates all day. That is unrealistic. Meditation strengthens your foundation so that you aren’t constantly thrown around by the shifting tides of life, but meditation is not about shutting things out. Rather, it is about building the ability to handle the tides of life. So, when something unexpected happens, you aren’t reactionary, but instead you can fall back upon your mindfulness training and observe your thoughts and impulses before making a decision. 

Stress is part of life, part of being human, intrinsic to the human condition itself. But that does not mean that we have to be victims in the face of large forces in our lives. We can learn to work with them, understand them, find meaning in them, make critical choices, and use their energies to grow in strength, wisdom, and compassion. A willingness to embrace and work with what is lies at the core of all meditation practice.

Mindfulness isn’t about shielding yourself from life’s difficulties. Rather, it about how to deal with the inevitable stresses and pressure, whether that comes as changing your perspective or controlling your thoughts or simply accepting the new events. 

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

Mindfulness can also help improve your self-control by examining and dissecting your thoughts before acting upon them.

Rather, it is to understand the nature of our thoughts as thoughts and our relationship to them, so that they can be more at our service rather than the other way round.

You are observing your thoughts instead of thinking different ones. Through observation you can then pick up on patterns of thinking, question the repetitive thoughts that come, or see if your thoughts are beneficial for you. 

There aren’t many things you can control in life. Much of life is outside of your influence. But how you think and what you think about is under your control and you need to exert your authority over them so that your thought process can align with the direction you want your life to head towards.

Another benefit of mindfulness meditation is that it can help cultivate patience.

Do you have the patience to wait

till your mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving

till the right action arises by itself?

Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-Ching

Without patience, you cannot see what the next step should be. Patience is having the ability to act at the right moment. Moments come and go, but if you can sit and wait, then you can filter through the different emotions, opportunities, or moments that present themselves and choose the one that would be the most beneficial for you. Instead of carelessly jumping on or acting upon the very first thing.

As you attend the gentle flow of your own breathing during times of formal meditation practice, notice the occasional pull of the mind to get on to something else, to want to fill up your time or change what is happening. Instead of losing yourself at these times, try to sit patiently with the breath and with a keen awareness of what is unfolding in each moment, allowing it to unfold as it will, without imposing anything on it…just watching, just breathing…embodying stillness, becoming patience.

Don’t give in to your first impulse. The more you resist, the more you can then create this narrative that you are a patient individual. That patience is one of your virtues. This is of importance because often what you tell yourself is what you become. If you reinforce the fact that you aren’t a patient individual, then you will act impatiently. But if you start the narrative that you are a patient individual and you can source this belief with your meditative practices, then you will act with patience. 

Another benefit of mindfulness meditation is that you can improve your ability to concentrate.

Concentration can be practiced either hand in hand with mindfulness or separately. You can think of concentration as the capacity of the mind to sustain an unwavering attention on one object of observation. It is cultivated by attending to one thing, such as the breath, and just limiting one’s focus to that.

Distractions are abundant in life. Especially in the current technological age. There are more apps and platforms trying to distract you from your task than ever before. In such times, those who can be patient and focus on one thing for an extended period of time can benefit tremendously. 

With extended practice, the mind tends to become better and better at staying on the breath, or noticing even the earliest impulse to become distracted by something else, and either resisting its pull in the first place and staying on the breath, or quickly returning to it.

In Sanskrit, concentration is called samadhi, or onepointedness.

You can practice onepointedness at any moment in your life. You don’t need to have a designated time and place to improve that ability. Even as you go about your day, you can focus your thoughts on your breath and keep it concentrated for a couple of breaths at a time. This can be viewed as repetitions, similar to the repetitions you do when you exercise in order to strengthen and build muscle.

Lastly, mindfulness can aid you in becoming more disciplined.

After all, the thinking mind always has the very credible-sounding excuse that since you will not be accomplishing anything and there’s no real pressure to do it this morning, and perhaps real reasons not to, why not catch the extra sleep which you know you need now, and start tomorrow? To overcome such totally predictable opposition from other corners of the mind, you need to decide the night before that you are going to wake up, no matter what your thinking comes up with. This is the flavor of true intentionality and inner discipline. You do it simply because you committed to yourself to do it, and you do it at the appointed time, whether part of the mind feels like it or not. After a while, the discipline becomes a part of you. It’s simply the new way you choose to live. It is not a “should,” it doesn’t involve forcing yourself. Your values and your actions have simply shifted.

Qualities like patience, concentration and discipline are viewed as characteristics. They can be improved, but equally, they can worsen. You can become more disciplined, but you can also lose your discipline. That muscle also atrophies. So, mindfulness practice can be used in your life to keep those muscles active. Mindfulness can work as a tool to sharpen those qualities and to improve your character.